Russia’s Referendum: Tampering With Ballots and Borders?

  • According to the Russian government 93% voted remotely.
  • The vote was marred by irregularities and allegations of fraud.
  • The changes could pose a threat to Russia's neighbors.

On July 1, Russian citizens voted for amendments to the Constitution. More than 70% of voters supported the proposed amendments, while more than 20% opposed them. Voting was held remotely from June 25 until Wednesday. Physical voting also took place on Wednesday.

A constitutional referendum will be held in Russia from 25 June to 1 July 2020. The amendments include one allowing President Putin to run again for two more six-year presidential terms, something he has not yet ruled out. Critics have accused him of plotting to stay in power for life, while supporters have lauded the inclusion of the amendment.

According to the Kremlin, more than 93% of voters cast their ballots remotely. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared July 1 an official holiday. It should be noted that there was only a “Yes” or “No”option on the ballot for the full slate of amendments. Full information about the amendments was never made public.

However, some of them were made available. In addition, most of the Russian population does not really understand the exact changes. A peaceful protest against the amendments was held in Moscow. It is highly likely that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it did not gain a large number of followers or traction.

Of course, there were also problems with the vote, and one of the regions reported ballot tampering. A video of one of the polling booths shows ballots being removed. It is not known how fair the vote actually was in all the regions of the Russian Federation.

It was pointed out also that President Putin did not wear a mask when he came to vote. There are 206 amendments to the Russian Constitution that will now be implemented.

Amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation highlights:

  • The removal of term limits.
  • Permanent appropriation the Donbass, and possibly the Caucasus, as “federal territories.”

The first will allow Putin to remain in power until, at least, 2036. This week, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, suggested Putin be made president for life after voting or the amendments. This is apparently supported by many of Russia’s appointed governors. This was not a surprise.

The referendum also amends Article 67 to describe Russia explicitly as the successor state to the Soviet Union, and protector of the historical truth about the defenders of the Fatherland. It draws from Russia’s Orthodox past and belief in God, and defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Perhaps more problematically, it emphasizes the need for Russia to protect its “compatriots” overseas, in the protection of Russian cultural legacy. As soon as the self-proclaimed republics in the Donbass— Donetsk and Luhansk— hold referendums on joining the Russian Federation, the Donbass may fall under the constitutional guardianship of Moscow.  The same could also be applied to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The War in Donbass is an armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine. In the aftermath of the Euromaidan movement and the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, protests against the newly formed government took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, an area commonly collectively called the “Donbass.”

However, there are three plausible scenarios for this particular article.

  1. The amendments are meant by the Kremlin to inspire patriotism among the Russian population.
  2. The amendments are a pretext to restore the Soviet Union, with the annexation of the former republics, or simple pressure on the “Near Abroad.”
  3. The amendments are meant to restructure state bodies.

Consequently, Russia will begin to claim a Russian territorial takeover. During the Soviet Union, the borders of some regions and republics were changed. Ukraine could theoretically lose the Donbass. In Kazakhstan, almost 90% of the land was technically Russian.

Interestingly, the day before the vote, there were planned raids and execution of orders of influential people. The executed warrants were allegedly linked to corruption charges.

Overall, it is very likely that the tampering of votes was unrestrained. The vote itself was just a formality. The Kremlin has already developed a strategy and will implement it in any case. All this is social engineering of citizens to make them believe that they have the right to vote in Russia. In fact, there is no democracy in Russia.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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